NEW DELHI, India (Reuters) -A high court in western India on Friday rejected an appeal by opposition leader Rahul Gandhi to suspend his conviction in a defamation case, quashing for now his hope of returning to parliament and contesting national elections due next year.

Gandhi can now take his appeal to a larger bench of the same high court and then to the Supreme Court, his last option.

Gandhi was convicted in March in a case brought by a state lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after comments he made in 2019 were deemed to be insulting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other people surnamed Modi.

The 52-year old scion of India’s Congress party was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment but the jail term was put on hold and he was given bail.

(Reporting by YP Rajesh; editing by Shivam Patel)

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